Saturday, August 28, 2010

Idle Thoughts

So I'm sitting behind this red Ford Focus waiting for the light to turn green. When it does, I'll make a left (my turn signal's already on), then a right, then another left, and arrive at work on time. I should arrive at work on time. I left the same time I do every morning. I usually get there about ten minutes early, five of which I spend in my car with my head leaned back contemplating the dome light. Actually, I'm really contemplating other things, like existence and the human condition and politics and religion and whether I should have bought that Greg Kihn album way back in 1984 (the last was just a stray thought that unaccountably popped up between the human condition and politics.) The dome light just happens to be in my field of vision while I'm doing all that contemplating. But before I can even begin contemplating, the light has to turn green.

As I wait, I contemplate the red Ford Focus in front of me. There a toy firetruck right in the back window. A woman is driving the car. There's a little boy in the seat next to her. He's waving his arms about. I notice little kids do that a lot in cars. Are they pretending the traffic is some kind of sporting event, and they're in the stands doing the wave?

OK, the light just turned green. Time to get going. Wait, the turn signal on the Ford Focus just went on. She's making a left too? She should have signaled me that while the light was still red. I would have, um, well, I wouldn't have been taken by surprise, I can tell you that!

Here's the layout, folks. The light is at an intersection. Before her turn signal came on, I assumed she would just go straight, and I would make my left. This particular intersection doesn't have one of the those extra arrow lights, you know, the ones that let you make the turn while the car coming from the opposite direction has to wait. Instead, you have to rely on your own judgement as to whether you can make the turn or not. Except, I can't rely on my own judgement until she relies on her own judgement. Quite frankly, I don't think she has much confidence in her own judgement. She can't seem to decide whether to make the turn or to just wait until that big, white delivery truck passes by. From where I sit, she has plenty of time. She eventually--and I stress the word "eventually"--agrees with me, and makes the turn. Unfortunately, I no longer have plenty of time. If I make that turn now, I'll become personally embedded in that big, white delivery truck's front grille. The light turns red just as the truck passes me.

The thing is, the truck was originally far enough away so that both the woman in the red Focus and myself could have made the light. If only she hadn't hesitated. To have that much turning time during rush hour is pretty rare. Perhaps it happens once a century. And she monopolized it! Also, she could have turned on her turn signal while the light was still red.

Now, I won't arrive at work in enough time to contemplate the dome light. Nor will I have enough time to make a mad dash to the rest room (all this idling at the red light has had a negative psychological effect on my bladder.) I'll just be able to punch in, that's all. If I run. I'll have to start the day out of breath. Out of breath with my legs crossed. That hardly makes me an effective worker.

Of course, the woman in the red Focus gets to arrive at work on time. If she's even going to work. Wait, she had a kid with her. Was she driving him to school? No, it's the last week of June (present tense notwithstanding), there is no school. SO WHY THE HELL IS SHE DRIVING HER KID AROUND DURING MORNING RUSH HOUR?! JUST FOR PLEASURE? Come on, Junior. Let's examine all the wonderful sights at this time of the morning. Oh, look, one driver is giving another driver the finger! And that driver was just stopped by the police! And there, a fender bender! Oh, we're about to go over a flattened raccoon! How exciting!

I can't believe this. I really can't. I'M GOING TO BE LATE FOR WORK! AND I'M GOING TO BE PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY EXHAUSTED WHEN I GET THERE! AND I'M GOING TO DIE FROM URINE POISONING FROM HOLDING IT IN SO LONG! ALL BECAUSE THIS STUPID WOMAN AND HER SPASTIC KID DIDN'T TURN IN TIME! ALL BECAUSE SHE WAS DEATHLY AFRAID OF SOME PUNY, WHITE DELIVERY TRUCK THAT YOU NEEDED A PAIR OF BINOCULARS TO EVEN SEE! ALL BECAUSE--

The light just turned green. I make my turn.

My heart beating, I turn left, right, and--

I'm right behind the red Ford Focus again, waiting for the light to turn green.

I do something I should have done earlier had I thought of it. I reach for my cell phone and check the time. Hmmm. Once this light changes, I'll make another left, and arrive at work in enough time to both contemplate my dome light and relieve myself.

I didn't lose a single hour, minute, or second. I lost nothing.

Well, I did lose some patience.

And where patience goes, brain cells usually follow.

11 comments:

  1. Oh, the convoluted congestion of mind and traffic!

    I hear ya, buddy.

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  2. @Kass--I love your first sentence, Kass. Thanks.

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  3. All this, and the day had barely begun! As Sartre said, "hell is other people", especially when they're in front of you blocking your turn!

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  4. isn't it amazing the stories we make up when our expectations are threatened!we get scared, anger following immediately after.
    wv=phytho
    the phytho-n of the mind strangles the breath of the heart.

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  5. this is exactly why I need to move to a small town with no traffic.

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  6. @Badger--Apropos Sartre, when you're turn is blocked, there's "No Exit" (I know: groan)

    @standing--WHO SAID I WAS ANGRY?!?!

    @Dreamfarm--Everybody dreams of moving to a small town. That's where suburbs come from!

    @Everybody--Thanks for all the comments, folks. I'm pleased you all seemed to like this one.

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  7. My comment to Badger should read "your turn".

    Hell is my punctuation.

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  8. Kirk, I really enjoy your writing!

    patience is an art, as one of my friends always says: " I need to be patient enough to learn the art of patience" :)

    Glad you made it on time, so you didn't get physically and emotionally affected

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  9. Thanks Gabriela, I enjoy your writing, too. Especially those short, short stories you post every now and then. Whenever I try to write a short story it turns into a James Michener novel, minus the dinosaurs.

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  10. Don't you wish you had a way to broadcast out of her stereo/CD player? "HEY LADY! MAKE UP YOUR MIND!" That's what I fantasize about in traffic.

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  11. @El Postino--Ha! Of course, then she might be wondering what the hell was going on, and take even more time.

    By the way, I'm as guilty as this woman of doing stupid things in traffic every now and then. Lord knows, I've gotten my share of honked horns and middle fingers.

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